A new battleground has been established in the churches’ struggle against secularism, and once again, differences about sex are part of the mix.
Coming to your TV soon? Not if the Churches can help it.
Proposals contained in an official review of advertising rules would allow the promotion of pregnancy advisory services, including information about abortion, on television and radio.
The Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice has also suggested allowing adverts for condoms to be shown before the 9pm watershed, as long as long as they do not appear in programmes aimed at children under ten.
At the moment such adverts are allowed only on Channel Four, after 7pm.
The Independent Advisory Body on Sexual Health wants the restrictions on condom advertising relaxed to tackle increasing rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in children under sixteen.
More than 11,000 teenagers were diagnosed with chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis or genital warts between 2002 and 2006.
But church leaders believe society also has plenty to lose if the changes are put in place.
In its response to a public consultation, the Church of England warned that the proposals could lead to “round the clock” promotion of condoms, and suggested that there was no evidence that they would reduce the number of teenage pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.
The Roman Catholic Church claimed that promoting condoms was similar to promoting sex, and would sexualize “the target audience”, including children aged between 10 and 16.
The Church said anti-smoking campaigns showed the adverts would be counter-productive.
Its paper said that whereas young people tended to be advised to reduce the risks of sex by using condoms, smokers were urged to quit altogether.
According to the Church one study found that in anti-smoking campaigns, the promotion of “reduced risk” products could even attract young people to smoke.
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, has already denounced existing condom adverts as demeaning to young people by showing drunken and “casual sex on the street corner”.
Groups dedicated to improving sexual health have said that providing accurate information would help their cause.
But the RC Church concluded that young people were already being given “an impoverished view of sex”, and that more widespread advertising of condoms would distance sex even further from any idea of committed love.
Five hundred years after John Calvin’s birth, his name is still recalled on Protestant churches and chapels across the Christian world.
But despite his enduring influence, the man known as “the Great Reformer”, doesn’t enjoy the best public profile.
Protestant Churches are celebrating the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth
Contemporary portraits suggest a character as austere and even severe as the popular image of “Calvinism” remains today.
Born in France on July 10th 1509, Calvin was attracted as a young man by Martin Luther’s arguments against “indulgences”, the way the Roman Catholic Church formally forgave people’s sins in return for a payment.
He rapidly established a reputation as one of Protestantism’s principal thinkers, and eventually established a “Protestant Rome” in Geneva.
His rule there earned him a reputation for rigid morality.
There were bans on swearing, gambling and fornication, and dancing was outlawed – even at weddings.
There were penalties for unauthorised absence from church services.
Adultery and homosexuality were severely punished, even by death.
One Spanish theologian who took refuge in Geneva, but whom Calvin regarded as a heretic, was burnt at the stake.
But there was more to Calvin than strict observance and harsh punishment.
Although he banned religious paintings in churches, Calvin supported art in general.
He judged wealth obtained through hard work to be justified, opposed punitive interest rates, and stood in solidarity with the poor.
From today’s vantage point, life in Calvin’s Geneva sounds rather forbidding, but John Knox, one of Calvin’s followers described it as “the most Godly city since the day of the apostles”.
Knox went on to found the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and by the late 1700s, Calvinist-inspired churches were spreading across the United States, and later to the rest of the world.
The anniversary has produced exhibitions, concerts, plays, and a special postage stamp in Switzerland.
One Swiss daily paper has described the mood as “Calvinomania”.
Geneva may have been an austere place to live when Calvin was in charge
Calvin’s influence lives on outside Switzerland in interesting ways, not least in his contribution to the idea that God has already assigned some people to go to heaven and others to hell.
This notion of “predestination” was already well-established.
Some passages in the Bible suggested that some people were bound for heaven through no merit of their own (Paul’s letter to the Romans is one).
That meant that nothing a person did would make any difference to the destination already mapped out for them.
Calvin went further than this, suggesting that God not only predestined some people to heaven, he also predestined others to hell.
But he also maintained that those who were “saved” would have a strong sense of it.
This belief has produced the sort of evangelisation by which people at a meeting or service are called to come forward, invite Jesus into their lives and declare that they are saved.
Hers are some of the best-travelled relics in the world, and later this year they will find their way into a high security British prison.
St Therese of Lisieux was a French Carmelite nun who died of tuberculosis in 1897 at the age of 24.
She was to emerge as a powerful intercessor: people who prayed to her assuming her to be in heaven, and using her as a bridge to God, found their prayers answered.
St Therese’s relics will be taken to HMP Wormwood Scrubs
Pope Pius X described her as ‘the greatest saint of modern times”, but she has been more popularly known as the “Little Flower”.
One of the results has been that her bodily remains have been venerated by Roman Catholics, and carried round the world to more than forty countries in the hope that they might bring good things to bad situations.
Later this year St Therese’s relics will tour England and Wales for the first time, going on October 12th to Wormwood Scrubs in West London.
A casket containing some of her bones will spend three and a half hours in the Anglican Chapel in the jail.
Inspectors say conditions in Wormwood Scrubs have deteriorated and that there is more activity by gangs.
When St Therese’s relics were taken to Ireland in 2001, more people are reputed to have gone to see them than saw Pope John Paul II during his visit to the country.
The journey included a stop at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, where almost all the prisoners went to venerate the remains.
The organiser of the tour to England and Wales, Monsignor Keith Baltrop said the presence of St Therese’s bones in a casket in the chapel would give prisoners the chance to pray for her help.
Msgr Baltrop told the Catholic Herald that “many people have experienced healing or a sense of putting things right after praying before the relics”.
Some appeals are not successful; in December 2002, St Therese’s relics were taken to Baghdad in the hope of preventing the Iraq War.
However, before she died St Therese said she intended to use her time in heaven to do good on earth.
One of the criteria by which saints are created by the Catholic Church is evidence that prayers addressed to them have been answered, indicating that they are in heaven.